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News Briefs: Lake Mansfield Comprehensive Improvements Plan; 127 legislators support veto override of MCC cuts; Senate passes finance update bill

The Lake Mansfield Comprehensive Improvements Plan concentrates on three focus areas that have significant impact on how the entire space is utilized: Lake Mansfield Road, the recreation/parking area near the beach, and the boat launch on the southern end of the lake.
Lake Mansfield Comprehensive Improvements Plan available

Great Barrington — The Town of Great Barrington has released the Lake Mansfield Comprehensive Improvements Plan following a six-month public planning process. The plan, commissioned by the Town’s Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force, includes a series of recommended improvements to achieve the Town’s goal “to provide improvements for the Lake Mansfield recreation area that will support the health of the environment and provide safe access and recreational opportunities for all.”

On Wednesday, July 27, at 7 p.m. at the Great Barrington Fire Station, 37 State Rd., the design consultants will provide a detailed presentation of the plan and process to the Selectboard and request support to progress with work to seek grants, conduct engineering work, and develop capital budgets for future years.

The plan concentrates on three focus areas that have significant impact on how the entire space is utilized: Lake Mansfield Road, the recreation/parking area near the beach, and the boat launch on the southern end of the lake. The plan sets out a series of recommendations that will allow the Town to systematically address the areas in a way that is sensitive to recreation area users’ needs and the natural habitat, and that is mindful of the significant physical constraints of the area and the relative costs of the recommended improvements.

A printed copy of the report is available at both the Mason and Ramsdell libraries. Questions and comments should be directed to Town Planner Chris Rembold at (413) 528-1619, x7 or crembold@townofgb.org.

–E.E.

*     *     *

127 legislators support override of cuts to Massachusetts Cultural Council

Boston — State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D – Lenox) was joined by his Cultural Caucus Co-Chair Senator Dan Wolf (D – Harwich) and the Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Co-Chairs Representative Cory Atkins (D – Concord) and Senator Eric Lesser (D – Longmeadow) in soliciting signatures from other members of the legislature for a letter to House and Senate leadership in support of overriding Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). The governor reduced the line item from $14,299,000 to $6,527,624. A total of 106 Representatives and 21 Senators signed the letter.

The text of the letter follows.

Dear Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Rosenberg, Chairman Dempsey, and Chairwoman Spilka:

We respectfully request your support for a veto override to restore funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget for the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Specifically, we ask that the House and the Senate override Governor Baker’s veto that reduced line item 0640-0300 by $7,771,376.

With restoring the funding approved by the Legislature, the MCC draft budget for fiscal year 2017 would allow the agency to continue its programs that help revitalize our downtowns, make art more accessible to everyone, young and old, and build closer communities. If Governor Baker’s veto stands, the Massachusetts Cultural Council will be forced to slash grants by 30 to 60 percent and may have to eliminate entire programs.

MCC is putting creativity to work for the citizens of Massachusetts and makes thousands of grants directly to non-profit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and individuals artists, through funding programs that use arts, science, and the humanities to build strong, diverse, livable communities. The beneficiaries of these programs comprise a cross-section of the population and citizens in Massachusetts cities and towns. MCC supports nearly 400 nonprofit arts, humanities, and science organizations through its Cultural Investment Portfolio. These organizations spend $1.2 billion annually, provide 32,889 jobs, and pay $36 million in payroll taxes—supporting other public services that sustain the quality of life in our cities and towns and attract new business and workers. MCC operating support grants are a vital source of support for these organizations that leverage private dollars.

There are few places in America as rich in arts and culture as Massachusetts. From Boston to the Berkshires, from Cape Ann to Cape Cod, our state boasts an array of exceptional cultural organizations, beautiful and distinctive communities, and thousands of talented artists and educators. The MCC nurtures the creative life of Massachusetts. It is imperative that we continue to provide the Massachusetts Cultural Council with the necessary resources to continue the great work it does in the Commonwealth.

Thank you for your consideration and continued support for these priorities and your efforts to preserve and support the creative economy in Massachusetts.

–E.E.

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Senate passes bill to modernize municipal finance and government

Boston — Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) has announced that the Massachusetts State Senate has engrossed comprehensive legislation to modernize municipal finance and governance laws in Massachusetts including provisions to eliminate or update obsolete laws, promote local independence, streamline state oversight, and provide greater flexibility for cities and towns.

The bill eliminates or updates obsolete laws that no longer serve a meaningful purpose, including the repeal of county government finance reporting requirements and changes to the civil motor vehicle infraction law to allow cities and towns to issue citations electronically.

During debate the Senate adopted a Downing amendment that would empower cities and towns to place a question on the ballot for approval by the voters to institute a local tax surcharge to fund local and regional transportation projects.

The legislation further promotes local autonomy for cities and towns, allowing for more control over certain funding decisions and local regulations. It also streamlines state oversight of many tax collection procedures to make the process more transparent and predictable for local officials.

Finally, the bill takes steps to provide municipalities with greater flexibility, including a study on double utility poles; changes to procurement laws to simplify, clarify, and increase thresholds for construction contracts; and updates to the way municipalities use parking revenues.

A conference committee will now resolve the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.

–E.E.

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